Australia’s soccer boss Frank Lowy has attacked maverick Gold Coast United owner Clive Palmer for making illogical, confused and damaging comments about the game.
Lowy vigorously responded to Palmer’s claims which included accusations that Football Federation Australia (FFA) does not give A-League club owners enough say and that it siphons money away from the clubs.
The FFA chairman described Gold Coast as a “spectacular failure”, said Palmer’s claims were outrageous and disrespectful, talk of a league splitting from the FFA was “madness” and that the mining magnate was wasting his time trying to pressure the game’s governing body.
“Day by day the comments emanating from the Gold Coast are more illogical and more confusing and even more damaging for our game,” Lowy told a Melbourne Heart business luncheon on Tuesday.
“I’m surprised when these ramblings are taken seriously and given credence and picked up by others.”
Although the FFA has taken legal advice on whether Palmer has breached his licence agreement, Lowy said he could not say whether Gold Coast would be in the A-League next year or whether the billionaire would keep the licence.
He admitted it would not be good for the game if the Gold Coast were kicked out, but said the league would survive without them, “no doubt about that.”
“There’s a lot of unanswered questions at the moment for us to make up our mind,” he told reporters after the lunch.
But he conceded he would talk more to the clubs and in the next few weeks would embark on a tour to speak with owners to try to come to a collaborative solution to the issues he says are damaging the game.
He hoped that would include discussions with Palmer, even though he said he was given the “brush off” when he tried to contact him late last month.
While Palmer had threatened legal action if the FFA revoked his licence, Lowy said he did not want to go through the courts, but would not rule it out.
While he said he would talk to the club owners, he made it clear they should also know their place when it comes to the sport’s decision-making.
“The fact is that we all have a role to play in our sport,” he said.
“The FFA’s role is to execute the strategy determined by the independent board which is elected by the state federations and the clubs.”
He said the clubs’ role is to field a team, provide a professional and dedicated administration and build a strong supporter base – an obligation he says Palmer is not fulfilling.
“I don’t think any fair-minded, independent observer could say the same about the Gold Coast, especially given what has been said in the past few weeks,” he said.
“The disrespect shown to the game, to the fans and to players has been breathtaking, and I am at a loss to understand the motive behind it all.
“The very least you could say about the Gold Coast is that there has been a spectacular failure to connect with the local community to get fans to turn out for the game.”
He also denied Palmer’s claim that Newcastle Jets owner Nathan Tinkler was misled into paying $7 million for his licence fee.
Lowy said the FFA had invested heavily in the struggling club to make it sustainable for a new owner.
“It was not a licence fee of the kind all clubs must pay in the first place but a purchase price for what was a going concern,” Lowy said.
“There was no pressure and it was a commercial arrangement that we both agreed to.”
Lowy also said he was confident the FFA’s next broadcast deal would cover every club’s salary cap, one of the main complaints of club owners.